Far from Baghdad

by Abdellatif La‚bi

Crash of boots
Ishmael
is back in the place of the ram
God has changed his mind
and Abraham's tears
are in vain.
The butchers are here.

We are lost
shocked
like dromedaries
in the desert of Iraq
who watch a passing
caravan of armoured cars

That water
is bought and sold
is understood
It's only now
it serves
to launder consciences

After grave robbers
come museum looters
Behold progress!

The statue was beheaded
It was only a lump
of bronze or steel
But in the heads of man
nothing has changed
The tyrant is dead
Long live the tyrant!

Freedom's torn apart
Have we repeated everything
like parrots?
The same old refrain is over
Know this
freedom imposes itself

'If I don't kill you, I'm doing you a favour', goes an old Moroccan saying. Some pearls of wisdom send shivers down your spine.

'We only lend to the rich', the French saying goes. In local Arabic it comes out as, 'Fatten the ass of the sheep that's already fat!' Happy now, translator!

We only talk about banning weapons of mass destruction. And weapons of partial destruction, what about those?

Given the amount of human blood spilled every day, I'm astonished none of these multinationals hasn't yet turned it into a new source of energy.

Mass graves unearthed
filmed
from every angle
Strange booty

Near a charred vehicle
corpses are trampled
smiles on their lips
Even in hatred
there's something grotesque

Are some assassins more noble than others?

So many poets stopped here
before other ruins
after other ravages
But they at least
had only one idea in their heads
to improvise new love songs

For every woman
who adopts
or readopts the veil
that's ten years'
of progress
gone up in smoke

Basra
Thirty years ago
The most potent arak
flowed freely
The poets gathered
to laugh up to the stars
awash with their visions
That traitor arak!

Somewhere round here
Wisdom
had its house
Aristotle was saved from oblivion
Schehrezade conceived
the mother of all stories
The spirit breathed
until it ran out of breath
before succumbing
to suffocating pollution
from the 'mother of all wars'

A people can only outwit their oppressor if they're morally superior

A cradle of humanity
shall we say
It's hardly surprising
here or elsewhere
that predators are recruited
from this very cradle

But you could say
that the oppressed
are eager to usurp
the oppressor
to punish in turn
those who came first
or else themselves

Despite his wisdom, the great Ibn Khaldun failed to grasp this fundamental twist of universal history

When the moral is uncorked
we must drink down to the dregs

 See the unspeakable and die

In the belly of the night
a cry rises
to where?
The seven heavens
sucked into a black hole
have rejoined the queue
of the helpless

The literal translation of this poem was made by Andre Naffis-Sahely

The final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop

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